7 Cycling Magazine Publishers Share Their Best Tips

 

The world of cycling is very diverse. There are many resources, both online and in print, that deal with cycling and everything associated with it. However, different cyclists have very different opinions on what the content of such resources should be.

It has always been about print media. Cycling magazines impart a sense of class and luxury that most online blogs can only feebly imitate. There are a number of these magazines out there, of course, and some of them are wildly famous.

Contributing to a world full of enthusiasts

Even with this many great magazines out there, a number of you die-hard enthusiasts may feel like the wrong content is being focused on. For instance you may prefer to read articles about cruisers and comfort bikes, but can only find mountain biking magazines in your area.

Because of this, and because you feel like you could contribute far more to a cycling magazine if you could write your own original content, you may want to start up your own cycling magazine. A lot of people do want this, actually!

Our interviews with the experts

However, there are a few things that you should know about before starting one that could mean its success or failure later on. To help you out in finding more about what you should know before proceeding, we asked a few popular cycling magazines this all-important question:

What do you wish you knew before starting your magazine?


David Henshaw
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David Henshaw, A to B

I don’t think I’d have changed anything. We’re not a cycling magazine! We’re a magazine about green transport, that happens to include quite a lot on folding bikes and electric bikes. We don’t do anything on touring or mountain biking, but quite a lot on commuting.[/fourcol_three_last]

James Lucas
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James Lucas, Boneshaker Magazine

How time-consuming it would become! The curating and editing of boneshaker takes a huge amount of time, not to mention all the admin and answering of emails. Mike and I currently do this for no money and have done since its inception, and it’s often tough-going fitting it in around our regular paid work.[/fourcol_three_last]

Jan Heine
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Jan Heine, Bicycle Quarterly

The details of mailing permits and how to obtain discounts for international mailings are pretty complicated, but well worth researching. Keeping your mailing costs down is important to keep your subscriptions affordable.[/fourcol_three_last]

Philip Diprose
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Philip Diprose, The Ride Journal

Just how much time producing a magazine would take up. I knew it would eat up as much of my life as I could give it but I didn’t realise it wanted THAT much. Being serious though, I think its sometimes quite good to not know everything. We’ve made a few mistakes along the way but surely theres no point in doing anything if you know all the answers already (it does take all your time though).[/fourcol_three_last]

Tracy Corral
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Tracy Corral, Cycle California!

The short answer is that I wish I knew more about bicycling when I started Cycle California! with my business partner. I always knew I’d start a magazine or other type of publication, but I didn’t think it would involve bicycling. I was a casual bike rider when we started publishing but was not into our local bike culture in any meaningful way. Which meant I had to learn very quickly about: Bike clubs, long-distance riding, road bike racing, mountain bike racing, why mountain bikers and road bikers don’t get along (they do now, thankfully), bike history. It was a crash course in everything biking in California. I was lucky that we had very knowledgeable freelance writers who were willing to teach me some of the finer points of bike culture![/fourcol_three_last]

Trevor Gornall
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Trevor Gornall, Conquista

Nothing – if I had any idea how hard it would be I would not have started at all! But thats not very helpful is it, so I would say our biggest oversight was how difficult distribution can be. We focussed on content – thinking the rest would care for itself if the content was awesome – you know: “build it and they will come”. I’ve since learned you need to devote at least as much thought to distribution as to content.[/fourcol_three_last]

Vineet Sharma
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Vineet Sharma, Freerider Mountain Bike Magazine

It was not an easy decision to start a magazine as our audience was very new to the sport and the sport was not completely developed in our country where cycling was considered to be a poor man’s transport. Although we had shaped our concept before releasing our magazine, but we really wished we knew how much support we would get from the industry to fund and run the magazine, which is still a very hard thing to do.[/fourcol_three_last]


Getting exposure is quite a challenge

One of the most important things when it comes to starting your very own magazine is that you get it the right kind of exposure. This means that you need to get with the right advertising agencies and even the best partners and sponsors that you can, so that you can make a name for yourself in this highly competitive world.

To help you out with this, we asked the experts at the bicycle magazines:

How do you find advertisers and sponsors for your magazine?


David Henshaw
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David Henshaw, A to B

We don’t. We’re losing them in droves. But we’re not too concerned. Commercial links are a big pain.[/fourcol_three_last]

James Lucas
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James Lucas, Boneshaker Magazine

We have decided to keep boneshaker free from all advertising so far, but in order to make things more sustainable for us, we are now looking at ways of working with people we like in a more considered way, with sponsored pages in future issues. We hope to trial this with the next issue due out in October/November of 2015. Watch this space![/fourcol_three_last]

Jan Heine
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Jan Heine, Bicycle Quarterly

Bicycle Quarterly is financed by subscribers, not by advertisers. So we don’t actively solicit advertisers. We do accept ads, but they come to us.[/fourcol_three_last]

Philip Diprose
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Philip Diprose, The Ride Journal

Quite badly. We have been lucky but it is always a struggle to find them. With increasing number of cycling magazines it gets harder and harder, especially as most of them have teams doing this as a day job. Coming home from work, putting the baby to bed and then getting on with it doesn’t feel the most efficient way to work.[/fourcol_three_last]

Tracy Corral
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Tracy Corral, Cycle California!

Because we have been around for 20 years, we are finding that more advertisers are coming to us. We get out to bike events to promote the magazine and this helps us find potential advertisers, as well. Testimonials from some of our long-term advertisers also helps. Also, (and this is a tip for folks just starting a magazine), we check out our competition and see who is advertising/sponsoring them. Even if you don’t try to entice your competition’s advertisers away, you can see what types of companies sponsor the magazines that are like yours.[/fourcol_three_last]

Trevor Gornall
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Trevor Gornall, Conquista

We were fortunate that we spent more than 10 years working in the cycle industry before starting the magazine, so already had a good network of contacts at cycle brands. That certainly helps. Otherwise it’s largely word of mouth, people see the magazine and contact us directly. We’ve explored various funding models and are still not satisfied we have it quite right. We prefer partnerships to advertising, if you find the right partner it can be much more interesting than just dropping an Ad in, and it can lead to unexpected collaborations that you didn’t expect in the beginning.[/fourcol_three_last]

Vineet Sharma
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Vineet Sharma, Freerider Mountain Bike Magazine

Market research is the simple answer, but getting advertisement is a big challenge in our business.[/fourcol_three_last]


Getting help from the best in class

Of course, you need more help than this. Print media is a dying art, and starting out in the field that is already filled with other prospective magazines and competitors is going to make it a real rat race in order to make a name for yourself. Because of this, we also asked the experts to share some extra information:

What is your best tip for other bike magazines?


David Henshaw
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David Henshaw, A to B

Don’t isolate bicycles from other transport, and ditch all that macho-gear, lycra and helmets.[/fourcol_three_last]

James Lucas
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James Lucas, Boneshaker Magazine

We don’t have tips specifically for other bike magazines, but in general we’d always say to other mags to stay true to what it was you originally set out to create, don’t allow yourself to be coerced into changing your focus unless you want to and hold on to your integrity whatever happens![/fourcol_three_last]

Jan Heine
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Jan Heine, Bicycle Quarterly

Have a vision and lead, rather than try to report on trends and follow. Try to inspire readers to ride their bikes.[/fourcol_three_last]

Philip Diprose
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Philip Diprose, The Ride Journal

Be enthusiastic with everyone you deal with. It makes a massive difference and you will go so much further if people see that you believe and love what you are producing.
Get a good sub editor and art director. With them it doesn’t matter how much your feet are flapping under the water, all people will see is the beautiful swan effortlessly gliding along.

Dont rush things, in the long run no one notices if you are a month late. But once its printed you cant go back and any mistakes are there forever. Read, reread and then reread again.

And savour the moment when you open your first box of each issue. Its truly a special moment to see your effort and work put together in that magazine.[/fourcol_three_last]

Tracy Corral
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Tracy Corral, Cycle California!

Really get to know your audience. Know who you are writing for. Try to get inside their heads and learn what makes them happy and what their passions are. Also, know exactly why you are publishing your magazine. It’s good to have a long-term view of a project like a magazine. Magazine publishing is a labor of love, and while it is fun, it is a lot of hard work. Deal honestly with your readers, your writers, your business associates.[/fourcol_three_last]

Trevor Gornall
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Trevor Gornall, Conquista

Passion is great and it’s essential, but it only gets you so far. Competition is fierce and as an Independent you will go up against huge global media brands with resources that you will never have. Don’t try and stand toe to toe with them – they will beat you. Being small, Independent, flexible and agile gives you advantages. Find your niche and celebrate it – you may never be bigger, but you can be better.[/fourcol_three_last]

Vineet Sharma
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Vineet Sharma, Freerider Mountain Bike Magazine

The reviews, the write-ups etc should be genuine and concentrated on the development of the sport instead of any specific brand.[/fourcol_three_last]


After seeing the three questions answered by some great names in the bike business, you have hopefully been able to learn something. In a field where not even half of the prospective magazine companies last more than a couple of years, you will be able to get a leg up by learning from the people who have already made it, and are now well known in the world of cyclists.

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